GAME PREVIEW: RAIDERS AT JETS

EAST RUTHERFORD , NJ - The preseason is over and now it’s time to see what the Jets are made of... Jets’ fans have had September 7th circled on their calendars since training camp began, because that day marks the team’s home opener against the Oakland Raiders.

Jet fans, players and coaches alike are all looking forward to finally opening up the regular season.

“Everything is just ramped up,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “As much as you love training camp and everything else, and it’s true, there is just something special about opening a season. I know the fans, I feel it from the fans, their anticipation, I feel it from our players and I for one, without question can’t wait to get this thing started.

Second year quarterback Geno Smith is also excited to have the opportunity to improve upon what was an up and down rookie year and showcase the team’s improved offense.

“Man, we’re excited. We get a chance to go out there and play four quarters of football, put everything we’ve been working on out there and showcase it for the fans and everyone watching. We’re excited. We’re ready to go.”

While the Jets seem to be a team on the rise with all of their young talent on the defensive line, their week one opponent seems to be one in complete disarray.

The Raiders are coming off a 4-12 season and haven’t finished a season above .500 since 2002. Their pass defense was perhaps one of the first in football giving up on average 255.8 yards per game. Their run defense wasn’t much better as they allowed 107.8 yards per game.

If that didn’t convince you their defense was bad, they ranked 28th in points allowed giving up an average of over 28 points per game. (All team stats courtesy of ESPN.com)

The Raiders’ offense isn’t much better. They are starting rookie second-round draft pick Derek Carr. According to ESPN, Carr is the 18th, yes 18th different quarterback the Raiders have had since 2003.

You know the teams, you know the matchups, now lets delve into specifics.

WHEN: Sunday, September 7th, @ 1PM EST (TV-CBS Radio, -ESPN)

WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

*INJURY REPORT:

JETS- DB Antonio Allen (Concussion) Full, LB Nick Bellore (Calf,) Limited, DB Josh Bush (Quadricep) DNP, Ikemefuna Enemkpali (Foot) DNP and DB Dee Milliner (Ankle) DNP.

RAIDERS- TE David Ausberry (Knee) Full, CB Chimdi Chekwa (Knee) DNP, K Sebastian Janikowski (Right Quad) Full, CB Taiwan Jones (Knee) Full, QB Matt Schaub (Rt. Elbow) Full and T Menelik Watson (Full.)

GAME KEYS

Ground and Pound- Ryan’s favorite mantra is essential to a Jet victory Sunday. As stated earlier, Oakland has one of the worst run defenses in the entire NFL. What the Jets’ may lack at wide receiver other than Eric Decker, they more than make up for it with their three-headed monster at running back.

Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell should have a field day running the ball against this Oakland defense. While the Raiders attempted to improve their run defense with the signing of free agent linebacker LaMarr Woodley and the drafting of Khalil Mack, the Jets’ running backs should have no problems finding the open holes and exploiting them for big gains.

No Turnovers- The Jets are clearly a better team than the Oakland Raiders but one way to even the playing field are turnovers. Geno Smith was interception prone last season with 21 picks but he looked different this training camp.

He looked calm in the pocket, made all the right reads, and just looked like a completely different quarterback than what Jet fans saw last season.  While Oakland’s defense isn’t the ’85 Bears, it is one filled with savvy veterans like Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck. Smith acknowledged that fact and that the offense has to execute the game plan in order to succeed on Sunday.

“(They are) veteran guys, very smart, very savvy, crafty guys.” said Smith. “We’ve got to pay attention to Charles Woodson back there. He’s one of the best there is. They’ve got a bunch of guys that are new to their defense but not new to the NFL, so they understand how to play football. We’ve got to prepare to go out there and play a hard game.”

Look for Smith and the Jets’ offense to do just that on Sunday afternoon Make Derek Carr Beat You By Stopping The Run- With a rookie quarterback starting, it seems likely that Oakland will rely heavily on their run game on Sunday. While the Jet secondary (more on that later) is not the best, they will be able to disguise their coverage’s and fool Derek Carr.

The running game is  perhaps the only area where Oakland did improve last season. They signed three-time All-Pro Maurice Jones-Drew and re-signed Darren McFadden.

While Jones-Drew isn’t the Jones-Drew of old, he is still a productive player. He still rushed for 803 yards last year. While some may scoff at that number when you consider that he was Jacksonville’s entire offense last year and he is only two years removed from a season in which he rushed for over 1600 yards. (stats courtesy of pro-football reference.com.)

The Jets shouldn’t have an issue stopping the run however. Under Rex Ryan the defense has always been one of the best against the run. That trend continued last year when the defense allowed only 88.3 yards per game which ranked third in the NFL.  When you factor those stats in with Damon “Snacks” Harrison being one of the better run stopping nose tackles in football, it should be a long day for the Raiders running game.

X-FACTORS:

Derek Carr- Carr is the unknown here. He beat out veteran Matt Schaub who last year was a pick six machine for the starting job with a strong performance against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks during the final preseason game. Although he did it against the Seahawk backups, Ryan was still impressed with the rookie’s ability.

“I think it’s more of the fact that in their first four drives I think they scored,” Ryan said. “Again, you felt a certain energy out there with their team. Obviously he has a big arm, a live arm and he’s fairly mobile and athletic. He gets the ball out, he’s got a quick release and things so the kid, he knows what he is doing.”

While Carr may be a good quarterback down the line, he is still new to the NFL. In college he had trouble when facing pressure, which is exactly the Jets’ defense’s expertise.

In addition, according to ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini, Ryan’s record against rookie quarterbacks during his time with the Jets is an impressive 7-3. The fact is that Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman will be disguising their coverages and throwing in some exotic blitzing to confuse Carr which is bound to lead to some Jet’s takeaways.

Cornerback Play- The Jets cornerback situation is what it is. It is not what they have had during year’s past with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie shutting down receivers but all hell isn’t breaking loose. Converted safety Antonio Allen will get the start on Sunday against the Raiders and most likely Dee Milliner will not play so Darrin Walls will start along side him with Kyle Wilson as the nickel corner.

This game will in some ways determine the arc of the season for the Jets’ corners. If Allen and Walls get torched by a rookie quarterback then the Jets may be in some serious trouble.  On the flip side if the tandem plays well, it will boost their confidence as they head into a tougher part of the schedule when the Jets face some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

But all reports out of Florham Park indicate that Allen and Walls have the trust and confidence of their teammates and coaches. And with Dee Milliner who looked good during his short training camp on the mend, the corner situation may not be as big of dilemma as perceived.

Allen and Walls will have the chance to prove that on Sunday.

THE PICK: It would be insane to call week one a must win for the Jets because they have an entire season in front of them but week one is pretty close. This is a game, when the schedule comes out, you circle it as a W. Like I said earlier this game can kind of determine the way the season goes. After this, the Jets have games at Green Bay in week two, Chicago at home in week three, Detroit at home, at San Diego, Denver at home and a Thursday night game against New England.

Even Geno Smith acknowledged that this week’s game is important.

“This one’s important. This is the only one we care about. It’s the one we can control. We can’t take care of anything else. We’re just focused on what we have right now” said Smith. A resounding defeat of a bad Oakland Raiders team will give the Jets confidence heading into the difficult part of the schedule. I fully expect the Jets to give Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense fits with their disguised coverages and pass rush which will lead to a win.

If the Jets are the playoff team they claim to be, these are the games they have to win and I think they will.

Jets win 28-14

*Injury Report as of Thursday  will be updated throughout the week.


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